, Salem, MA

Local News

January 28, 2013

Hamilton opts to keep dispatch in-house

HAMILTON — Selectmen have agreed to take on the additional costs of running the town’s own dispatch center once Wenham moves to the regional dispatch center in Middleton.

Selectmen unanimously voted earlier this month to continue operating the town’s center instead of becoming a member of the regional facility. The move is expected to cost the town an additional $180,000, according to Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

After visiting the Middleton facility with police Chief Russell Stevens, dispatcher Anne Marie Cullen, fire Chief Philip Stevens and Lombardo recommended that the town keep its own dispatch.

“I think it is the right direction for the town,” Lombardo said in an interview. “We have a state-of-the-art facility. All our technology is up-to-date, and we have well-trained staff.”

Lombardo said he was impressed with the Middleton facility but expressed concerns over the long-term cost structure and the future impact for the town. For example, there are talks for upgrades to unify the systems within five years, but there is nothing in the contract about who will foot the bill, he said.

“There is nothing that safeguards (towns and cities) from future capital and infrastructure costs,” Lombardo said.

He also expressed concerns in the staffing model, which originally called for a call-taker and dispatcher to be on duty. But this changed in part because the center will likely take on cellphone 911 calls that are now processed in Framingham, he said.

“The cost savings would be in the margins compared to the service we would receive,” Lombardo said.

Police Chief Russell Stevens told selectmen during the meeting that he is worried about staffing in having one dispatcher in Middleton covering three communities, instead of the current two. The town would also have to address walk-in traffic at the station in the absence of dispatchers.

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